“Be ready to positively change the way you work and the way you think”

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Lianne Nunn is a deputy service manager at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. Lianne completed the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson programme for mid to senior level leaders in July 2018. Lianne shared her experience of the programme and how it led to her creating new and improved patient pathways.

My love for the NHS and my future career planning started when I volunteered at our local acute hospital at the age of 17. I would sit with patients on one of the older person’s wards and talk to them when they did not have visitors. It was there where my passion for healthcare started, and I realised what you could achieve through working in the NHS and how important compassionate care was for often vulnerable people who rely on you. Since then, I have worked across healthcare in roles such as staff nurse, charge nurse, community psychiatric nurse, clinical team leader, modern matron and my current role of deputy service manager.

My first official leadership role was in a clinical team leader role and involved operational management of an access service for all mental health referrals in Suffolk. I have since come to realise that every role I have ever worked in could be seen as my ‘first leadership role’, as leadership should be encouraged at all levels of the workforce. My initial management role was overwhelming as the transition from a very clinical role to being a manager overnight was very different. I had great mentors who I learnt from as I worked my way through this new world, I suppose being open and asking questions was something I learnt, and this helped me learn on the job.

Someone once gave me some great words of wisdom: ‘You cannot be expected to know everything, but a good leader will recognise and respect those around them who can work with you to complement what you bring’.

I decided to take part in the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson programme as I was looking for my next challenge and I wanted to broaden my understanding of leadership which allowed me to look outside of the box. The programme appealed to me as there was an experiential learning element and I loved the idea of meeting new people from various backgrounds and locations to learn and develop with. I was curious about what the course would be like and how it would challenge me.

My learning with the Academy has been life changing personally and professionally, it really has. I loved the different approaches to learning and the flexibility to work around my busy day-to-day job. I enjoyed the action learning sets and residentials because it fulfilled my wish to broaden my networks and to see a wide range of experiences and approaches from tutors and participants. It really refocussed my thinking onto the patient and this was probably my biggest element of success from this course. Following this, I have now focused my teams in a more compassionate way towards each other and the patient. The programme also allowed me to:

  • Gain more insight about myself as a person and as a leader
  • Have the confidence to challenge and lead in a way that always brings focus on the patient and their needs
  • Learn what areas of development and learning I need to focus on and what my strengths are
  • Lead on system change and explore how this can be achieved in a positive way

As part of my leadership case study, I was involved in improving patient pathways. A Patient pathway is the journey a patient takes when they are referred to NHS services and details the teams they access dependant on their individual needs. These pathways were across primary and secondary mental health services. This involved leading on a system change as a result of poor patient feedback. I successfully worked across services to agree a ‘step up/down’ pathway to enable patients to get to the appropriate service in a more streamlined way. This avoided multiple assessments and listened to patient feedback about their experience. We continue to monitor complaints data and since implementation we are seeing improved levels of feedback relating to our cross-service pathways.

After implementing my learning in the workplace, one of our team leaders fed back to me that my approach had enabled the team to be more compassionate to each other and they were all now more patient focussed in all conversations they had. This was reported as a positive change and they said it was due to the right questions being asked in meetings and the positive challenge of decision making. The reflective work around specific projects in the workplace as part of the course are invaluable. They really enabled me to bring lots of learning back to the workplace and make changes across my team, across services and the organisation.

Some advice which I would give to anyone thinking of applying for the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson programme would be:

  • Be ready to positively change the way you work and the way you think
  • Be ready to work hard, at times it will feel never ending but the end result is incredible
  • Be open to new people, new experiences and new ways of learning


You can find out more about the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson programme and how to apply here.

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